Do you love big, scary, twisty, turny, upside-downy rides? Is Thorpe Park your favourite place on the planet? Do you want your career to be an (American) adventure? Are you obsessed with the computer games Rollercoaster Tycoon and Theme Park World? Well then, you’re in the right place!
Theme park managers are the livewires responsible for the efficient and cost-effective management of the UK’s theme parks, such as Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures.
Theme parks are fantastic money-spinning ventures, but they need to be run properly to make sure that thrill-seeking punters keep coming back for more.
If you decide to enter the ‘magical’ world of theme park management, you’ll be responsible for every aspect of the business, from marketing, sales and financial management to HR, procurement and ride safety.
You’ll be the ultimate team leader! Not only will you manage junior staff and idiots dressed as giant monkeys (like Neil in The Inbetweeners), you’ll also supervise the other mid-level managers that work below you, such as operations managers and communications managers.
Essentially, you’ll be the ‘big boss man’, responsible for building relationships with stakeholders, handling complaints and customer enquiries, dealing with problems as and when they arise, and making sure everything is run smoothly and effectively.
You’ll have complete budget control and you’ll be responsible for ensuring the overall financial success of the theme park. You will also have a hand in procurement, maintenance, and health and safety. Yeeshk! We hope you’re ready to be busy.
Salary & benefits
As a trainee theme park manager, your salary is likely to range between £18,000 and £28,000 per annum. However, as you gain more experience and move up the ranks into a senior position, your salary may increase to £80,000 and beyond.
Additional perks may include free annual tickets for friends and family – but that’s probably not the best reason to pursue a career as a theme park manager!
As a theme park manager, you will be required to work unsociable hours on a regular basis. Understandably, evening and weekend work is a regular fixture. Theme parks are most popular when other people aren’t working! It sucks, but it’s a sacrifice you must be willing to make.
It’s also important to remember that most theme parks close during the winter months. During this time, most of your time will be spent in a warm, cosy office.
Many theme park managers start off in junior positions and work their way up. Consequently, a degree is by no means essential for entry into this line of work.
An undergraduate degree, however, may give you the opportunity to enter the profession at a higher level. This career path is open to all graduates, but a degree in business studies, management studies, tourism management, events management, facilities management or marketing may give you an edge over other candidates.
Most importantly, it’s essential that you gain relevant work experience, particularly in a customer service, marketing or team leading capacity.
Training & progression
The issue of health and safety is central to a theme park manager’s training. Consequently, a large part of your training will focus on compliance with the Fairground and Amusement Parks Guidance on Safe Practice, which is defined by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE). You may also be required to undergo in-house health and safety training courses from time to time.
The rest of your training will focus on other aspects of the business, from HR and marketing to financial planning and customer relationship management. Occasionally, you may also be required to attend external training courses offered by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA).
When it comes to career progression, you will most likely start out in a niche management role, such as technical management, retail management or communications management. From there, you will advance into a general management or director role.
As you gain a wealth of experience and expertise, there may be more scope for you to move overseas in search of other opportunities. Freelance work is incredibly rare.